Blog Bag Answers: The O-Line Shuffle and Black Jerseys

Before I hit the road to Athens, I have for you the answers to your many Blog Bag questions. Lots of good queries, several of them about offensive linemen – one about a Georgia offensive lineman, the others about MSU’s.

Enjoy.

Q: Ask defensive tackle Fletcher Cox if he remembers Ben Jones‘ dirty hit from last year.

A: To review, Cox was hit from behind by the Georgia center near the end of last year’s meeting, a 24-12 MSU win in Starkville. Jones, a center, was suspended for the first half of the next week’s game, and he wrote Cox a letter of apology.

Jones, now a senior, severely regrets the moment. The media didn’t get to speak with Cox this past week, but MSU coach Dan Mullen said, “I think that’s probably the end of it. A heat-of-the-moment deal. I don’t think there will be anything to that.”

Q: Do the coaches think that reshuffling the offensive line will allow them to stop the bleeding, or do they hope that improvements can be made? If things don’t improve, do the coaches have plans to change the play-calling?

A: Right now, I think they’re just trying to stop the bleeding, although they certainly hope the youngsters, like Blaine Clausell and Dillon Day, can grow up fast. As for adjusting the play-calling, I asked offensive coordinator Les Koenning if the changes up front would alter the game planning.

“There will be times that we’ll try to help them in certain situations,” Koenning said. “I don’t think it’ll really change a bunch of what we do, but in protections and stuff like that we can help them by chipping a back out or sliding towards them or doing stuff like that.”

Q: With the injuries and struggles of the O-Line, what is the deal with juco guys Dewayne Cherrington and Joey Trapp? Do the coaches just feel like they are not ready, or they just aren’t performing well enough in practice to earn game time?

A: Last I saw Cherrington, he was working with the defensive line, but he’s listed as an athlete on the roster, so I’m sure coaches would be flexible with him. But he’s a walk-on – albeit a big one, at 6-foot-3, 340 pounds – and so coaches would have to be fairly desperate to work him in.

As for Trapp, he’s from Los Angeles and has a scholarship, and that’s about all I can tell you about him. He’s worked at several spots on the line, but I really have no idea why State signed him, and I’m hardly alone in that curiosity. I don’t see him playing much, if at all, the next two years. (I’m sure I’ll eat those words.)

Q: This week I saw were maybe left tackle James Carmon will play some guard, to move Quentin Saulsberry back to center?

A: True, that’s an option. But who knows.

Q: What is your opinion of the ‘best 5′ offensive linemen? What is the coaches’?

A: Don’t know who the best five are, but here’s my best guess as to who will start Saturday: Clausell at left tackle, Gabe Jackson at left guard, Saulsberry at center, Carmon at right guard, and Addison Lawrence at left tackle. As for the coaches, they’re not saying, and Mullen has said he won’t know until Saturday who his starting five will be.

Q: Is there any rhyme or reason to the black jerseys being worn?

A: Without having official word for MSU, I think I can figure it out: The Bulldogs originally wore them for big games – Alabama in 2009, LSU in 2010 – and after getting their tails spanked decided to wear them against a lesser opponent. After the scare against Louisiana Tech, fans naturally want them burned.

I did get a quote from athletics director Scott Stricklin on this today, via text: “Each of our 16 teams has an alternate black uniform option. Football will continue to have that as an option. … But it may be time to replace the current set.” I think fans would agree, Scott.

Q: If we have two of the best cover corners in the SEC (Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield), why do they play 10 yards off the receivers on every down, and why so much zone defense?

A: Last week, defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said, “We had 23 sacks a year ago (26 actually), and at the end of the day there’s a direct correlation between getting pressure and being close. … But that has to start correlating into sacks and getting off the field. I don’t see too many straight drop-back guys now, five-step drops and throw verticals, balls coming out now, and being close can help that a lot.”

MSU’s opponents have competed 71 percent of their passes. Wilson obviously would like to see that go down, but he said this week, “The biggest thing at the end of the day, the No. 1 stat for us are A) are we winning, and B) points. At the end of the day, defensively, your job is to keep points off the board. And that’s what we look at.”

As for what coverages MSU runs, Wilson said, “I want to be whatever we need to be that week to win that football game. People say, ‘What’s your base?’ And a lot of times you’ll ask, ‘Who are we playing?’ It’s so multiple, and we’re a multiple defense.”

Q: What are the stipulations for reviewing a play? Is a “spot” reviewable? How about personal foul calls (e.g., head-to-head contact)?

A: Spots are reviewable. Penalties are not (so far as I know).

Q: How about to determine whether or not a ball was actually caught? I think we saw that controversy on both sides of the ball against La. Tech. If any of these are reviewable, how does coach Mullen decide on when to make that call? He hasn’t yet this season.

A: Whether a catch is made is reviewable. As for Mullen’s thinking process there, I haven’t asked him about it, but if the coaches have reason to believe a play is worth challenging, they’ll do it.